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Friday, October 9, 2015


Metropolis II by Chris Burden at LACMA

LACMA told me today that they made a mistake when they printed our tickets.

LACMA printed--incorrectly--the weekday tickets with an entry time of 10:00 AM. The museum does not open until 11:00 AM on weekdays. On weekends they do open at 10:00 AM.

If you have a weekday ticket that has a 10:00 AM entry time for the Gehry exhibition, please note: the museum does not open until 11:00 AM.

Your ticket, I'm told, will still gain you admission at 11:00 AM or later to the Gehry exhibition and all of the museum.

Be sure, however, to bring your PCC student ID with you and go to the box office window to get a sticker that will allow you to visit all of the museum.

On Monday morning I will be at LACMA in the plaza, between the Resnick Pavilion, where the Gehry exhibition is installed, and the box office by 11:00 AM.

I've sent an email to the LACMA administrator who assisted me and notified her of the museum's box office error. 

Please share this news with your classmates if you see them or have contact information for them.

Here's a quick link to the Frank Gehry post at English with McCabe.

Urban Light by Chris Burden at LACMA

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

1A Revision Questions

Write these questions and reminders down on the back of your essay. Then apply these to your draft. Find pages in your handbook that correlate with these topics.

Offer an Anecdote
Provide an Example
Raise An Engaging Question
State your promise to the reader
The Introduction is The Porch
The Introduction is a Handshake
No need to name both essays in your Introduction

You are presenting a reasonable argument
This is your opinion
This is your claim
This is what your essay is about
Not something like: Authors x and y show the same connection between compassion & politics
Instead, assert that there is a relationship between compassion (or outsider, if that is your topic) & politics. What is that feature?  Is there a feature of compassion, etc., that is often overlooked or is more important than normally thought to be?
No need to name both essays in your thesis

Demonstrates your authority
Name the authors and the essays that you will examine
You have read the essays--carefully, closely--that you will examine.
Provide a brief summary of the essays
You might define a define a term 

Opposing View(s)
Shows you have thought through the issue
Shows you consider another point of view
Allows you to raise questions that you can respond to 

Body Paragraphs
(RENNS: Reasons, Examples, Names, Numbers,
d Sensory Details)
Topic Sentences (connect to Thesis)
Provide Transitions between paragraphs and sentences
Provide Evidence from the Readings
Why is this example important?
How does this example connect to my Thesis?

Opposing View, again (?)
It might be worthwhile to return to the other side of the argument or perspective on the issue, and then respond before you get to your conclusion

Don't state "In conclusion..." or "Finally, ..."
Try a "call back" to introduction
Try looking ahead: what's next?
What might follow our understanding of the issue?

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

English 1A Class Schedule/update

Follow this Schedule

Mon., Sept. 28
  • Class was Cancelled
Wed., Sept. 30
  • Regarding LACMA/Gehry field trip: bring to class your $20 for ticket & tell me the date & time that you will be visiting the museum
  • Read King's "Letter from Birmingham Jail" 
  • Quiz on King's "Letter from Birmingham Jail"
  • It will be helpful in understanding King's letter if you review the post below about King and his letter before class.
  • During class we might review "The Compassion Experience" from The New Yorker. No need to read it before class.
  • During class we might review "Do-Gooders" from The New YorkerNo need to read or review it prior to class.
  • During class we might review an article on police corruption from The New Yorker. No need to read or review it prior to class.
  • During class we might review an article on slavery from The New Yorker.  No need to read or review it prior to class.
  • NO DRAFT DUE (see Oct. 7th)
Mon., Oct. 5th
  • BRING TO CLASSTour of Frank Gehry Architecture, 50 Essays & Writer's Reference
  • REVIEW Martin Luther King post here on English with McCabe. READ review by Roger Ebert of 4 Little Girls and WATCH interview with Spike Lee. Both can be found on the Martin Luther King English with McCabe post.

Wed., Oct. 7th
  • Essay Draft Due re: Ascher, Eighner, Orwell & King
  • Bring to Class: Tour of Frank Gehry Architecture, 50 Essays & Writer's Reference

Mon., Oct. 12th
  • Field Trip to LACMA Gehry Exhibition
  • No class Meeting at PCC

Wed., Oct. 14th
  • Essay Revision Due re: Ascher, Eighner, Orwell & King
  • Bring to Class: Tour of Frank Gehry Architecture
  • During class we'll have a discussion re: visit to the Gehry exhibition and the upcoming Gehry writing assignment. Gehry reading schedule will also be discussed.

Monday, October 5, 2015

English 1B Schedule/Update

TUES. 9/29
Class was Canceled

Thursday 10/1
No Classes for PCC students:
 Faculty professional development day

TUES.  10/6
O’Brien (344)
Baldwin (250); Cultural Studies (1271)
In-Class: Quiz on O'Brien & Baldwin stories
Essay Assignment (for details see English with McCabe post
"1B: Short Story Assignment")

THURS. 10/8
Updike (294); Boyle (359)
Next Essay: for details see English with McCabe post
"1B: Short Story Assignment" 
TUES. 10/13
Due today: $18 for All My Sons ticket at A Noise Within. Performance is November 5th @ 7:30 p.m. (In response to a couple of questions that came up: A Noise Within will not let us exchange tickets for another performance date, and the play is not appropriate for children.)
Diaz (425)
Adichie (434); Postcolonial Criticism (1272); Watch TED videos with Adichie: “The Danger of the Single Story” and “We Should All Be Feminists”.  You’ll find links to the videos on the Adichie post on English with McCabe.
In-class: Quiz on Diaz and Adichie stories
Next Essay: for details see English with McCabe post "1B: Short Story Assignment" You can also click on this to get to the assignment.

THURS. 10/15
Essay (Draft) Duefor details see English with McCabe post
"1B: Short Story Assignment". You can also click on this to get to the assignment.

TUES. 10/20
Essay (Revision) Due: for details see English with McCabe post
"1B: Short Story Assignment". You can also click on this to get to the assignment.
Bring Miller’s Death of a Salesman and a copy of his essay “Tragedy
and the Common Man” to class. His essay is linked on English with
McCabe Miller post. Also bring Literature. We’ll begin to discuss“Writing
about Plays” (1223-1230), and Miller’s Death of a Salesman. 

THURS. 10/22
Miller’s Death of a Salesman (read the first 30 or so pages of Act I/to the end of the scene with Willy and Charley playing cards)

Sunday, October 4, 2015

1B: Short Story Assignment

Follow this schedule, NOT the syllabus
English 1B Fall 2015   Essay re: the short story

"Fiction in general, and war stories in particular, serve a moral function, but not to give you lessons, not to tell you how to act.  Rather, they present you with philosophical problems, then ask you to try to adjudicate them in some way or another. But it's an imperfect world, and we can't find perfect solutions in an imperfect world.  And yet, even in this imperfect world, we seek proximate solutions.  That's the business of living, and fiction tries to address that." (10-11) -- Tim O'Brien. "Responsibly Inventing History: An Interview with Tim O'Brien" by Brian C. McNerny. War, Literature, and the Arts. Fall/Winter 1994. Print. 1-26.

Writers of fiction often express ideas about the qualities of a good story, as O’Brien does, above. For this assignment select one of the short stories named below and explain how it illustrates O”Brien’s remarks about the nature of fiction. Integrate O’Brien’s critical remarks throughout your essay and connect them to specific passages in the story you are analyzing. 

Short Stories (pick one for analysis):
Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues”
Boyle's "Balto"
Adichie’s “Birdsong”

You are responsible to find the correct MLA citation method for this assignment. Cite both O’Brien’s theory of fiction and the short story you are examining within your essay. You are, then, providing in-text citations and a Works Cited page. (Note: the O’Brien quote, above, does not follow MLA guidelines.) You can find MLA guidelines in your textbook, Literature, and there is more information at Purdue Online Writing Lab

Length: 3-4 pages (plus a Works Cited page)

Plagiarism: See the syllabus for information about this depressing subject. If you do plagiarize any portion of your essay, you will get an “F” for this assignment and may not pass the course.

Manuscript Style and Grading Rubric: See the syllabus

Thurs. 10/15
Essay (Typed Draft) Due.(For complete credit a complete draft of at least 3 pages plus a Works Cited page is required.)

Tues. 10/20
Essay (Typed Revision aka The Masterpiece for a Letter Grade) Due
Bring Miller’s Death of a Salesman and a copy of his essay “Tragedy
and the Common Man” to class. His essay is linked on English with
McCabe Miller post. Also bring Literature. We’ll begin to discuss“Writing
about Plays” (1223-1230), and Miller’s Death of a Salesman

Saturday, October 3, 2015

1B: John Updike (1932-2009)

When I write, I aim in my mind not toward New York
 but toward a vague spot a little to the east of Kansas.
-- John Updike

There must be, then, a library just a little east of Kansas that is well-stocked in author aisle "U." Because as a young man John Updike made it a goal of his that he would publish a book a year.  It turns out that he did miss a year or two, but made up for the misses with many more hits, to the admiration of enthusiasts, bewilderment of observers, and irritation of detractors, as he published 75 books from 1958-2013. It is true that some of those 75 titles were collections of stories, essays and poems that had appeared in earlier editions. Still, it is quite a number, like a career sports record no other athlete will ever surpass or, even when blessed by Olympian gods and goddesses, match. Addressing Updike's publishing record, Louis Menand in The New Yorker, April 28, 2014, recalled, "David Foster Wallace once asked, quoting, he said, a friend, 'Has the son of a bitch ever had one unpublished thought?' Not, apparently, if he could help it."

Tonight's reading assignment?  Tomorrow's?
Well, for someone, somewhere, in Updike's
imaginary place, "a little to the east of Kansas."  


American Academy of Achievement

John Updike Society

National Endowment for the Humanities

The Poetry Foundation

Chief claims he wears a Large.  Not true.
 All his friends know he is an XXL.
His other unsuccessful deceptions:
 he has never met, nor read John Updike. 

Videos with John Updike
[Highly Recommended.] John Updike talks with Jeffrey Brown of the PBS NewsHour (10 mins.)

Updike talks about his 'Rabbit' novels with Charlie Rose (3 mins.)

[Highly Recommended.The Paris Review: The Art of Fiction, number 43 (Winter 1968)

Photograph of check discovered at Famous Celebrity Autographs dot Com

Articles About

[Highly Recommended.John Updike, a Lyrical Writer of the Middle-Class Man, Dies at 76 (The New York Times, January 28, 2009)

AN APPRAISAL: A Relentless Updike Mapped America’s Mysteries (The New York Times, January 27, 2009)

[Highly Recommended.John Updike's Animated Ambitions (Updike's interest in drawing is discussed.) (The Guardian, March 19, 2004)

Updike self-portrait from the mid-1990s.
Details about it appear in an article by Lawrence Grobel.

Updike drew the above illustration for The Lampoon, a student publication at Harvard,
 where he graduated in 1954. The Harvard Gazette recalls Updike's student days.
More examples of Updike's drawings can be found here.

John Updike’s Mighty Pen (The New York Times, January 31, 2009)

John Updike, who died on Tuesday at 76, was our Trollope and our Proust both. Though a brilliant man, he was not a novelist of ideas. His best character, Rabbit Angstrom, had trouble making sense of his own life, let alone the lives of those around him. Nor did Mr. Updike have a reformer’s zeal or a dreamer’s vision. His gifts were his eye and his sensibility, which enabled him to describe, with an exactitude bordering on love, how the world looked and what it felt like to make your way in it.

He was the great chronicler of middle-class America, and hundreds of years from now, if people still read, they will read the Rabbit books to learn what that perplexing age, the 20th century, was really like.

Mr. Updike was also America’s last true man of letters, an all-purpose writer and a custodian of literary culture. He wrote more, and in more different genres — stories, novels, poems, essays, reviews, occasional journalism — than anyone since Henry James, and it’s hard to imagine how he can be replaced. Who has the energy, or the eyeballs, for that much reading?

In many ways, though, Mr. Updike was an unlikely man of letters. He lived a quiet, burgherly life in a seaside Boston suburb and seldom went to literary parties. He dropped by New York now and then to visit museums and see relatives, but he never stayed long. He didn’t teach; he almost never gave blurbs; he belonged to no literary school or faction. His idea of a reward after a morning’s work was not lunch or drinks with other writers but a round of golf with his buddies.

Mr. Updike kept in touch with the literary world mostly by mail. He was a regular at the post office and eagerly awaited the arrival every day of the FedEx truck. He was old-fashioned in promptly and politely answering letters, and his correspondence was like the man himself: stylish, charming, gently self-deprecatory. Starting when he was in his late 50’s, it sometimes amused him to pretend to be a fogey and a valetudinarian. His submissions to The New Yorker, where I used to edit him sometimes, were often accompanied by a little note declaring that the enclosed was not very good and would probably be his last, because the well was going dry, the tank was empty, the field was fallow. In fact, until the very end of his life Mr. Updike was remarkably youthful, and he filed his last piece with the magazine just weeks before he died.

If, like me, you were lucky enough to share Mr. Updike’s enthusiasm for golf, you got periodic reports on the woeful state of his game and his hope, never diminished, of turning it around. He was a tireless sharer of “tips” — the little swing thoughts golfers use to trick their bodies into temporary compliance.

Updike self-portrait, date unknown.

But despite his distance from the literary center — the scrums, the parties, the gossip — or maybe because of it, Mr. Updike cast an enormous shadow. He was a father figure to generations of other writers — an “influence” not in the baleful Harold Bloom sense but in a more benign, encouraging way. On The New Yorker’s Web site and elsewhere last week spontaneous tributes popped up from writers as various as Gish JenJulian BarnesJohn IrvingJeffrey EugenidesRichard FordPaul TherouxT. C. Boyle, Antonya Nelson, George Saunders, ZZ Packer, Thomas McGuane, Lorrie Moore and Joyce Carol Oates, most of whom knew Mr. Updike barely, if it all. Toward the end of his life, there were a few naysayers, like David Foster Wallace and Sven Birkerts, who complained that Mr. Updike, along with Norman Mailer and Philip Roth — other aging “phallocrats” — had been hogging the stage too long and needed to shuffle off to the assisted-living facility and make room for younger, more vital talents. But many young writers felt no rivalry, only admiration. Two of them, Jonathan Lethem and Joseph O’Neill, novelists as different from each other as they were from Mr. Updike, got together on Tuesday evening for a drink in his memory, and doubtless there were others — in bars, lofts, living rooms in Brooklyn, the Upper West Side and Iowa City.

What other writers, young and old, prized most about Mr. Updike was his prose — that amazing instrument, like a jeweler’s loupe; so precise, exquisitely attentive and seemingly effortless. If there were a pill you could take to write like that, who wouldn’t swallow a handful? Equally inspiring was his faith in the writing itself. He toyed once or twice with magic realism, but the experiment never really worked and he gave it up. Though he loved Jorge Luis Borges, he didn’t in his own work go in for Borgesian mirror games, and he was free from the postmodern anxiety about the fictiveness of fiction, the unreliability of language. He was an old-fashioned realist, with an unswerving belief in the power of words to faithfully record experience and to enhance it. If other writers, younger ones especially, couldn’t quite subscribe to that belief, still it was reassuring to know that there was someone who did.

And other writers surely admired — and maybe envied a little — Mr. Updike’s success, his ability to make a living just from the fashioning of sentences, without selling out himself or others. He seldom took an advance and he never tailored his work to suit the fashion. The literary life as he led it seemed a higher calling, not a grubby one. Charmed as it sometimes seemed, though, his career had its ups and downs. Not all his efforts were successful, and he took his share of lumps from the critics, especially in the later years. But he got up every day uncomplaining and went to his desk with joyful industriousness. He had a faith in the literary enterprise that was noble and touching.

Secretly, what almost every writer wanted was Mr. Updike’s attention and good opinion. He was a prodigious reader, and communicated to the world at large mostly by means of his essays and reviews — generous, judicious, thoughtful. Praise from Mr. Updike meant something, and not just abstractly. Favorable notices from him gave huge boosts to the careers, for example, of Erica JongThomas Mallon and Jonathan Safran Foer. Mr. Updike couldn’t read everyone, of course. He was a father figure with far too many children all craving his notice, and yet he awarded his favors so evenly that it was hard to complain. A writer could always daydream: Maybe he’s reading my book this very minute. I wonder what he thinks.

Every now and then, if something in a magazine caught Mr. Updike’s eye, he would send the author a little fan note, often typed on a postcard with his name and address hand-stamped in blue ink. He also had a stamp he used to address all his correspondence to Alfred A. Knopf, his publisher. There was something endearingly quaint about these little inky imprints — a legacy perhaps of a Depression boyhood and a lifetime habit of efficiency — but they also reflected his enduring fascination with the magic of print.

to read the above article on its website, go to "John Updike’s Mighty Pen" (The New York Times, January 31, 2009)

Pictured above is an example of Updike's own careful edits to what would become
the first page of his novel Rabbit at Restthe fourth volume in his 'Rabbit' tetralogy.
  To read more about his working manuscripts, books and other papers
 related to his life and writing career now held at Harvard, his alma mater,
 visit this site.

Times Topics (Extensive coverage, articles and videos, of Updike by The New York Times)

"Remembering Updike" by Joyce Carol Oates
The New Yorker
January 28, 2009
Posted by Joyce Carol Oates

John Updike was a slightly-older classmate in a vast high school populated by not-prosperous rural youths in some netherland of the nineteen-fifties. Of course, John was president of this class; no doubt I was secretary. I’ve been reading John’s work since I became an adult and can only content myself with the prospect of rereading his work through the remainder of my life. I think there must be a story or two, and even one of his more slender novels, which, unaccountably, I have not yet read. My students love “Friends from Philadelphia,” which was John’s first published story in The New Yorker. What a seemingly artless little gem! My students are stunned by it and by the fact that John wrote it when he was hardly older than they are.

We’d met a number of times—my (late) husband, Raymond Smith, and I visited John and Martha in Beverly Farms, Massachusetts, on several very nice occasions. John was always gracious, warmly funny, kind, and bemused—and of course very bright, and ardent, when it came to literature. When he gave a brilliant talk and reading at Princeton some years ago, I was pleased to introduce him to a large, packed auditorium. I teach his lovely short stories all the time—his language is luminous, sparkling, and glinting, with a steely sort of humor. I never knew how serious John was about his Christian faith—or, rather, the Christian faith—though some sense of the sacred seems to suffuse his work like that sort of sourceless sunshine which illuminates an overcast day. I will miss him terribly, as we all will.

1B: T.C. Boyle (b. Dec. 2, 1948)

Boyle in Santa Barbara, 2003. Photograph by Spencer Boyle
T.C. Boyle biography

Where to start to learn about T.C. Boyle? First, let's see what the T.C. stands for.  His full name: Tom Coraghessan Boyle. (His middle name is pronounced cor-RAG-a-sen) ) He grew up in upstate New York, earned his B.A. at State University of New York at Potsdam (1968), an M.F.A. in Creative Writing (1974) and Ph.D. in English (1977), both at the University of Iowa.  He has published over a dozen novels and about ten short story collections.  His work has been very well-received (granted over 40 awards and honors), and he has taught creative writing at the University of Southern California since 1978.  You can learn more about him at his official website.  There is the usual stuff like a biography, list of his books, and photographs of book jackets and him.

A unexpected treat can be found at his multimedia page with him and his former bandmates covering classic songs by Chuck Berry, Screamin' Jay Hawkins and others. His band, called The Ventilators (not to be confused with the ska/reggae group of the same name), played in the 1980s. The New York Times, "Sometimes, alone and stone drunk, Boyle cranks Bruce Springsteen or plays his saxophone at neighbor-vexing volume, recalling the glory days a few years ago when he sang for a band called the Ventilators, his voice vaguely reminiscent of the Animals' Eric Burdon. Very vaguely." A favorite for me, his version of The Animals' "I'm Crying." Is it punk rock? Garage rock? You decide. You tell me. I don't trust my "friends" on Facebook. More information about Boyle--his life as a writer,  can be found at All About T. Coraghessan Boyle Resource Center.  At this site he also talks about his love of music. Here's what he had to say:

"I always listen to music while working, and that working music is either classical or jazz. When I'm not working I listen to rock and roll, which has been the most informative music of my life. Classical: my heroes are Puccini, J.S. Bach, Borodin, Wagner, Shostakovich, Copland, et al. (there are so many). I'm not a great lover of symphonic music--I prefer chamber music, moody cello concerti, etc. As for jazz, it's primarily Coltrane, the first great artist I was able to recognize as consciousness began to arise in my feeble brain. As for rock: I love current bands, as well as the Blues and rock of the sixties, seventies, eighties, nineties and oughts. Many are referenced in my various stories and novels [Lou Reed, Springsteen, Robert Johnson., etc]."

Boyle with an unidentified young lady in 1973.
 Photograph by Alan Arkawy in Garrison, New York.

T.C. Boyle influences
Boyle ranks Flannery O'Connor and Gabriel García Márquez among the most influential writers on his work. Regarding O'Connor: "[L]et us not forget Flannery O'Connor. I discovered her as an undergraduate (for an adjective-rich description of your not-so-humble narrator at the time, see above). I was in a literature class--the Contemporary Short Story or some such. And she, the most remarkable American writer of the '50s, was where she so assuredly deserved to be--enshrined in a fat anthology. The story was 'A Good Man is Hard to Find', and it remains my favorite of all time, though certain pieces by the Three Cs (Cheever, Carver, and Coover) give it a run for the money. This story seems to me perfect in its radical synthesis of the horrific and the hilarious. I've read it a hundred times and I still laugh aloud at the scheming and senile grandmother, the howling brats, and the henpecked Bailey, and find the scene in which the grandmother's cat (Pitty Sing) attaches itself to the back of Bailey's neck, thus fomenting the accident, both chilling and (yes) wickedly funny. What ensues is a morality play that chills me right down to the black pit of my black heart. Accident rules the world, accident and depravity, and I don't have O'Connor's faith to save me from all that. " (Source: Reinhard Donat's webpage.)

A visit with Boyle. He talks about his books, readers,
 and living in a Frank Lloyd Wright home.

He had this to say about Gabriel García Márquez: "The book that spoke to me then was imagined by my enduring hero, Gabriel García Márquez, and it is One Hundred Years of Solitude. Many before me have spoken of its magisterial blend of magic, humor, and history, so I will let all that slide and address one of García Márquez's short stories that appeared around that time in the New American Review, "A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings." This is the story of a decrepit angel coming for a sick child in a storm on the Caribbean coast of Cólombia. The storm drives him down out of the sky to land in a very unangelic heap in the backyard of the child's parents, where he is confined in a chicken house, amongst the other winged and feathered creatures. The story is a sly (and yes, wicked) satire of the forms and strictures of the Catholic church, and it places the miraculous in the context of the ordinary--again, just as in real life. And oh yes, when I think of that story and that book, I can't help recalling the doggy smell of the stone gatehouse--we had three magnificent and magnificently stinking dogs at the time--and of the great leaping blazes we would build nightly in the old fireplace to keep the frost at bay." (Source:  Reinhard Donat's webpage.)

Boyle, his "Balto," and the Balto

Balto, celebrity Husky

from Nature on PBS
Sled Dogs: An Alaskan Epic

"In 1925, a life-or-death race to rescue the children of Nome, AK, from disease made an international hero of one sled dog — and eventually led to the creation of Alaska’s Iditarod sled dog race, the subject of Nature's Sled Dogs: An Alaskan Epic. 

"In January 1925, doctors realized that a potentially deadly diphtheria epidemic was poised to sweep through Nome’s young people. The only serum that could stop the outbreak was in Anchorage, nearly a thousand miles away. But the lone aircraft that could quickly deliver the medicine had been dismantled for the winter. In desperation, officials turned to a much lower-tech solution: moving the medicine by sled dog."

You can learn more about Balto at the episode's site.

The Cleveland Museum of Natural History has a brochure about Balto and the serum run. 

Binh Nguyen of our Summer 2014 English 1B made a great find.
  It's a History Channel video called "Four Legged Heroes: Togo & Balto,"
 all about the heroic Husky. What a pleasure it is to watch! Thanks, Binh, for sharing this with us. 

There is also a documentary, "The Making of 'Balto',"that came out in 1995 in conjunction with the animated film.  The documentary, which appears above, includes selected animation from the film, interviews with the animators, and remembrances of those who knew of the epidemic or Balto, the lead dog of the dog sled that delivered the serum.  One musher working today, Joe Garnie,  describes in the documentary (at 20:35) the necessary characteristics of a lead dog.  The most important trait for the dog to have, he believes, "is honesty. . . . Your life depends on your lead dog and for that it is having that connection with the animal. It is having that love for each other, and you trust each other. And it is just being honest."

Boyle in Santa Barbara, 2000. Photograph by Michael Montfort.

T.C. Boyle interview with the Paris Review
Boyle was interviewed by The Paris Review for their Art of Fiction series, Number 161, Summer 2000. In it he repeats his affection for García Márquez. He, Boyle asserts, "is one of the best writers alive." Here's an excerpt from the interview with Boyle's thoughts about his family and the autobiographical in his writing:

INTERVIEWER: Was your family supportive of your writing?

BOYLE: My father and mother were both working class, my mother educated through high school, my father through the eighth grade. I went to school in Westchester County, New York, with people whose parents were educated and wealthy in comparison to us, but my parents always gave me all the advantages the wealthier students had. My parents made me feel the equal of anyone; they were very supportive no matter what I wanted to do. I will say that my mother never understood, I don’t think, really, what I wrote—she was very bright, well-read, but it’s just that parents have a difficult time understanding their children’s art. I read her the Lassie story, which I think is one of the funniest stories I’ve ever written, and she never cracked a smile. When I finished, she said, That was very moving.

INTERVIEWER: What about your father? You dedicated World’s End “in memory of my own lost father.” Can you talk about that?

BOYLE: My father died at fifty-four of alcoholism. A suicide, actually. A slow suicide. He had been raised in an orphanage. I never really knew him very well, although he lived with us until he died. He was very morose. My mother tells me that his personality had been a lot like mine—that is, antic and playful, with a rich appreciation for the absurd—but something happened to him during the war (he drove a tank in the Seventh Armored Division during the Normandy Invasion) that made him very depressed. I was an extremely rebellious and disaffected adolescent, and I never really had a chance to come to that rapprochement with your parents that you can have when you get a little older. He was dead before anything like that could happen. So I dedicated the novel (which involves a search for a father, not in an autobiographical sense, but in a metaphorical sense) to him.

INTERVIEWER: How old were you when your father died?

BOYLE: Twenty-five.

INTERVIEWER: Is your mother still alive?

BOYLE: No, she’s dead too. Alcohol also claimed her.

INTERVIEWER: How autobiographical is your writing? And in what way?

BOYLE: To me, a story is an exercise of the imagination, and most of my work comes out of that spirit of game-playing or puzzle-solving, as I said earlier. I was and still am very taken with the playful work of writers like Borges, Nabokov, Calvino. So the short answer is, very little is autobiographical. But because I try to keep myself open to all the possibilities, I exclude no form or mode. Some of my best-known stories have autobiographical elements—“Greasy Lake,” “If the River Was Whisky,” “Back in the Eocene”—but they are inventions in which the autobiographical elements have been radically transformed.

INTERVIEWER: How does having a family affect your writing habits?

BOYLE: Having a family has been very good for me (and I hope good for them too). It gave me the stability I needed to begin and pursue a career as a writer. People tend to romanticize the picture of a writer—they want it to be easy, something a genius can just knock off between debauches, because if it is, if it doesn’t require talent, discipline and a lifelong commitment, then maybe there’s a hope that they, too, someday can knock out their own great and stirring work. We have the devastating example before us of the overwhelming numbers of American writers destroyed by dope and booze—Tom Dardis’s The Thirsty Muse is a real eye-opener—and people tend to think that chemically altering one’s mind is the way to inspiration. Maybe it is. But for me it seems counterproductive. I have never written a sentence—or even thought of writing a sentence—without being in the clearest state of mind. This is my life’s work. This is what I’m meant to do, and why screw with it? I think the way to be a writer is to experience things, certainly, and be open to things, but at some point to become dedicated to the craft of writing and to create a stable environment for that writing to occur in. At least in my case that’s true. So having a family and leading a stable life is absolutely essential to any writing I’ve ever done. When I did my earliest writing, I led a pretty wild life, and the writing was fairly spotty. I would write occasionally. Now I write every day, seven days a week, all year long. And it is my life.

To read all of the Boyle interview click here.

A Boyle interview: "I Don't Give Talks, I Give Perfomances." 
Published by The Guardian, Aug. 17, 2011 

T. C. Boyle in The New York Times
The New York Times has written extensively about Boyle. Click this  to find your way to the many reviews and articles published about Boyle in the Times. They also published a magazine article about him in 1990. It is laudatory of his talents, claiming that "Boyle [has] finally yoked his arrogance of talent and his wintry outlook to characters who weren't mere toys but men and women bouncing with emotional depth and ferment. Critics' comparisons of Boyle to his polestars William Faulkner and Gabriel García Márquez, formerly hyperbolic, suddenly tiptoed into the outskirts of plausibility."

The profile mentions one of his his awards. "World's End, which considered the ill-omened strivings of three Dutch and American Indian families across 300 years, was an ambitious attempt to do for Boyle's native Hudson River Valley in one novel what Faulkner did for his fictional Yoknapatawpha County in 14, and it won the PEN/Faulkner award for American Fiction in 1988. Says the novelist Russell Banks, one of the PEN/ Faulkner-prize judges: "'What knocked me out was the book's ambition. It took him out of the category of witty, clever social satire and put him in another league. He reached for the moon, and maybe he didn't get it all, but he risked the talent, and that's a scary thing to do.'"

Boyle and Frank Lloyd Wright
Boyle and his family live in a home designed by the celebrated architect Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959) and built near Santa Barbara in 1909. CBS Sunday Morning reported on Boyle and his house, as have Architect's Newspaper and the Los Angeles Times. Boyle's home also inspired him to learn more about Wright and make the architect central to his novel, The Women, which was published in 2009. A reporter for The Guardian visited Boyle at his home in Montecito, just outside of Santa Barbara. More about Boyle and his Wright home, with pictures, at The Wall Street Journal.

Boyle's Frank Lloyd Wright home. Photo by S. Micke

The reporter's article describes Boyle's house as "a low, spreading, cruciform structure of redwood and glass, built in the prairie style with a Japanese influence, and Boyle's latest novel, The Women, is about its architect. 'I really didn't know much about Frank Lloyd Wright when we bought the house in '93. Living here, I got curious and started reading about him and found out what a bizarre, outlandish character he was, with all this incredible turmoil in his personal life, and I knew I had to write about him.'"

Interior of Boyle's Wright home. Photo: Los Angeles Times

"Architecture is touched on in The Women, but the novel's main concern is Wright's scandal-racked love life and how it was experienced by the four women involved. 'All the events in the book are taken from the newspaper accounts and biographies, and I really put my soul into trying to keep the details accurate,' Boyle says. 'Where the fictional process is at work is when I enter the heads of the characters and imagine what they were thinking, and why they did what they did.' He based his main narrator, a Japanese apprentice called Tadashi Sato, on the many international architecture students that Wright charged for the privilege of doing his cooking and cleaning, and who were required to obey all his commands without question."

T.C. Boyle nonfiction
The Wildlife of T.C. Boyle's Santa Barbara
Inspiration at the doorstep of his Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house
by T.C. Boyle
Smithonsian Magazine, February 2011

from the preface to T. C. Boyle Stories II
by T.C. Boyle
The New Yorker, Oct. 3, 2013

Waiting for the Apocalypse
Fire Season in California
by T.C. Boyle
The New York Times, October 29, 2003

Boyle in Santa Barbara, 2013. Photograph by Jamieson Fry.

1B: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (b. September 15, 1977--)

Adichie's novel, Americanah, published in 2013, was widely praised.

You can learn about Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie at her official website and at The New York Times' "Times Topics" page about her. The Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie website has links to interviews and other sources about her. Listen to this Los Angeles Public Library podcast with her from June 6, 2013 and another with NPR's Terry Gross, June 27, 2013. You can also find her biography on the website about her. I have posted it here:

"Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was born on 15 September 1977 in Enugu, Nigeria, the fifth of six children to Igbo parents, Grace Ifeoma and James Nwoye Adichie. While the family's ancestral hometown is Abba in Anambra State, Chimamanda grew up in Nsukka, in the house formerly occupied by Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe. Chimamanda's father, who is now retired, worked at the University of Nigeria, located in Nsukka. He was Nigeria's first professor of statistics, and later became Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University. Her mother was the first female registrar at the same institution.

"Chimamanda completed her secondary education at the University's school, receiving several academic prizes. She went on to study medicine and pharmacy at the University of Nigeria for a year and a half. During this period, she edited The Compass, a magazine run by the University's Catholic medical students.

"At the age of nineteen, Chimamanda left for the United States. She gained a scholarship to study communication at Drexel University in Philadelphia for two years, and she went on to pursue a degree in communication and political science at Eastern Connecticut State University. While in Connecticut, she stayed with her sister Ijeoma, who runs a medical practice close to the university.

"Chimamanda graduated summa cum laude from Eastern in 2001, and then completed a master's degree in creative writing at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore.

"It is during her senior year at Eastern that she started working on her first novel, Purple Hibiscus, which was released in October 2003. The book has received wide critical acclaim: it was shortlisted for the Orange Fiction Prize (2004) and was awarded the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best First Book (2005).

"Her second novel, Half of a Yellow Sun (also the title of one of her short stories), is set before and during the Biafran War. It was published in August 2006 in the United Kingdom and in September 2006 in the United States. Like Purple Hibiscus, it has also been released in Nigeria.

Chimamanda was a Hodder fellow at Princeton University during the 2005-2006 academic year, and earned an MA in African Studies from Yale University in 2008.

Her collection of short stories, The Thing around Your Neck, was published in 2009.

In 2011-2012, Chimamanda was awarded a fellowship by the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University, which allowed her to finalize her third novel, Americanah. The book was released to great critical acclaim in 2013.

"Chimamanda is now married and divides her time between Nigeria, where she regularly teaches writing workshops, and the United States."

You can also watch Adichie's talk, "The Danger of a Single Story," here.
A transcript of this talk can be found here.

You can also watch Adichie's talk, "We Should All be Feminists," here. A transcript of this talk can be found here.

My Father's Kidnapping

The New York Times, May 30, 2015
by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

MY father was kidnapped in Nigeria on a Saturday morning in early May. My brother called to tell me, and suddenly there was not enough breathable air in the world. My father is 83 years old. A small, calm, contented man, with a quietly mischievous humor and a luminous faith in God, his beautiful dark skin unlined, his hair in sparse silvery tufts, his life shaped by that stoic, dignified responsibility of being an Igbo first son.
He got his doctoral degree at Berkeley in the 1960s, on a scholarship from the United States Agency for International Development; became Nigeria’s first professor of statistics; raised six children and many relatives; and taught at the University of Nigeria for 50 years. Now he makes fun of himself, at how slowly he climbs the stairs, how he forgets his cellphone. He talks often of his childhood, endearing and rambling stories, his words tender with wisdom.
Sometimes I record his Igbo proverbs, his turns of phrase. A disciplined diabetic, he takes daily walks and is to be found, after each meal, meticulously recording his carbohydrate grams in a notebook. He spends hours bent over Sudoku. He swallows a handful of pills everyday. His is a generation at dusk.
On the morning he was kidnapped, he had a bag of okpa, apples and bottled water that my mother had packed for him. He was in the back seat of his car, his driver at the wheel, on a lonely stretch between Nsukka, the university town where he lives, and Abba, our ancestral hometown. He was going to attend a traditional meeting of men from his age group. A two-hour drive. My mother was planning their late lunch upon his return: pounded yam and a fresh soup. They always called each other when either traveled alone. This time, he didn’t call. She called him and his phone was switched off. They never switched off their phones. Hour after hour, she called and it remained off. Later, her phone rang, and although it was my father’s number calling, a stranger said, “We have your husband.”
To read the rest of Adichie's story of her father's kidnapping find it here.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (b. September 15, 1977--)